The alleged accomplices of the Charlie Hebdo attackers are on trial | News

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Fourteen people have been tried in Paris for aiding gunmen who attacked the weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket five years ago, killing 17.

Only 11 of the suspected accomplices appeared in the crowded courtroom on Wednesday to face charges of conspiracy in a terrorist act or association with a terrorist group – the other three fled to territory controlled by ISIL (EI) in Syria or Iraq before the January 2015 attacks on the publication offices and the supermarket in the French capital.

The three attackers were shot dead by police in separate clashes.

Natasha Butler of Al Jazeera, who reports from Paris, said the trial would be “very closely watched” in France until its end in November.

“The attacks shocked so many people, causing a huge wave of grief,” she added.

FLYING ON THE WALL: Les Deux Frances

Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication infamous for his irreverence and accused by critics of racism, was targeted after posting derogatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Twelve people, including some of France’s most famous cartoonists, were shot dead when French brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed its offices in eastern Paris on January 7, 2015. The attackers also killed a policeman as they left the scene.

A day later, Amedy Coulibaly, who became close to Cherif Kouachi while they were in prison, killed a 27-year-old policeman, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, during a traffic stop in Montrouge, outside Paris.

Then on January 9, Coulibaly killed four men during a hostage situation at the Jewish supermarket Hyper Cacher.

The perpetrators of the attacks had ties to Al Qaeda and ISIS. Coulibaly was killed when the police stormed the supermarket. The Kouachi brothers were killed when officers carried out an almost simultaneous operation in a printing press where they were locked up in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris.

Reprinted cartoons

Over the next two and a half months, the tribunal will hear some 150 experts and witnesses.

The alleged accomplices face charges such as terrorist financing, membership of a terrorist organization and supplying weapons to the attackers.

Among the defendants tried in absentia are Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly’s partner at the time of the attacks, and the brothers Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine.

As the legal proceedings began, Charlie Hebdo reprinted in its Wednesday issue of the extremely controversial cartoons which sparked outrage in the Muslim world when they were first published nearly a decade before the attacks. Physical representations of Prophet are not allowed in Islam and deeply offensive to Muslims.

“We’ll never go to bed. We will never give up, ”wrote director Laurent“ Riss ”Sourisseau, injured in the attack, in an editorial published Wednesday.

The publication of the cartoons drew further condemnation from the Pakistani foreign ministry, which said the decision to print them again was “deeply offensive”.

But French President Emmanuel Macron defended “freedom to blaspheme” and paid tribute to the victims of the attack.

“A president of France should never judge the editorial choice of a journalist or an editorial staff because there is freedom of the press which is rightly cherished”, he declared during a visit in Beirut, Lebanon.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote in a Twitter message: “Always Charlie”.

The 2015 attacks sparked a rally of solidarity in Paris at the time, attracting more than four million people, many of whom held up signs with the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.

Dozens of world leaders and statesmen also tied arms in a high-security march to honor victims of the attacks.

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